Review: Men in Black: International

The 2010s has been a golden age for reboots of famous film franchises with Men in Black: International, the fourth in the series following this trend. Gone are Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as leads, replaced now by Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. Alongside Hemsworth and Thompson, Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson also star here. With these stars and an already quirky take on aliens this should a recipe for success. However, a quite predictable plot and underusing of some characters does dampen the experience.
Apart from a couple of characters and references, the first three films in the series are almost completely disregarded. This makes this a totally new film, giving it an opportunity to start anew. As the title suggests, this focuses a lot on the international sector of the Men in Black. From London to Marrakesh, this film expands the Men in Black universe and how they operate within it. To see outside of the United States was a breath of fresh air, yet didn’t provide enough substance to the plot.
Of all the actors, Chris Hemsworth is by far the one with the most amount of attention. His character, H, is handsome, yet dim-witted at times. H’s dimwittedness, attractiveness and interesting romantic history are both funny and cringy. He also wears pink pants in here, a sight worth seeing for Hemsworth fans. Some of this humour is aided by M, played by Tessa Thompson. M is nothing in contrast to H; she is attractive and intelligent. The banter between H and M provides some of the funniest moments in the film. It should be noted that Chris Hemsworth’s accent did take away from the experience. He appeared to try sound more British, yet it came out as a hybrid between American and Australian.
As for other characters, Liam Neeson’s character, High T, is by far though the best character in the film. His acting was phenomenal and the way. The aliens who populate the world too are quirky, much like the ones from previous films in the series. Perhaps the one that stands out the most is Pawny, an alien who is part of a chess set. He’s both quirky and loves to take a poke at H.
The acting and characters are sadly dampened by a plot that feels worn out in this era of cinema: trying to save the world. The plot felt way too predictable and unbelievable at times. Some of the almost invincible characters just seemed to be defeated so easily, a factor that did annoy me. There were some moments in the film’s narrative too which I knew the endings to almost immediately. I don’t wish to mention them as I don’t wish to spoil the movie for anyone. Liam Neeson also felt underused. It’s a shame as his character had a lot of great build-up, yet didn’t receive enough screen time. Even just a minute more would have been sufficient.
Men in Black: International is an interesting film. It has a lot of quirky humour and is a major departure from the other films in the series. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson do a great job and Liam Neeson is phenomenal. However, certain aspects and the predictability of the plot did dampen the experience for me. Saying that though, if you want to see Chris Hemsworth in pink pants and some quirky aliens, check this film out. There is some fun to find here. Men in Black: International is in cinemas now.


Words by Cameron Lowe
3/5

Bad Times at the El Royale

Bad Times at the El Royale is an extremely stylish film that has more than enough substance to fit the sizeable duration (141 minutes). The cast is a perfect fit and the writing, direction, and style as it is, all conspires to a film of near perfection.

The film’s greatest weakness is its sprawling backstories which paint the disparate histories of characters with no real reason to be together. It’s clear the intention is to speak to something universal, about, dare I say it, the human condition.

Beginning slow and ratcheting up the tension to a level that verges on a psychic assault on the audience, one cannot look away, however much they may wish to. The final act of the film is almost unbearable as this film slowly grips the audience and never slackens.

There is nothing off the table in this film where every risk feels dangerously real. The film makes the audience feel fury, grief, tension, and terror at its will. We as the audience have our emotional strings played masterfully.

This is a film that sits in my mind and dominates my thoughts. I am left thinking of all the chances characters had to take other actions and make their lives easier.

Everyone has a secret self, illustrated by the overt duality of the California-Nevada border bisecting the hotel. Each character’s façade is presented first before their true selves are revealed. We are invited to understand the fundamentally split nature of humanity and our capacity for kindness and cruelty. These capacities are shown in stark and brutal context at times.

The brutal events are complimented by moments of real human tenderness – without which this film may not be bearable. It digs deep and uncovers so much that few films can sit beside it as such great examples of character studies.

Humanity is under the microscope in this spectacle of a film. The style is obvious but the substance is what really affects the viewer.

It sets up an Agatha Christe-style situation and then eschews the tired narratives of a whodunnit in favour of a real assessment of how people act under pressure. Even the audience is under pressure and this film is guaranteed to elicit responses from you as a viewer that you are unlikely to expect – it certainly did me.
Go and see this film and be prepared for its unflinching portrayal of the evil of violence, the goodness of kindness, and the frailties of human beings.

This film and its characters will take up residency in your mind and will not be quick to leave. No actor does anything but soar in their role yet still the standouts are Jeff Bridges as Father Daniel Flynn, Lewis Pullman as Miles Miller (perhaps the story’s heart and soul), and Cynthia Erivo as Darlene Sweet. Bridges and Erivo engage in some breathtaking scenes with Chris Hemsworth’s Billy Lee, and Pullman’s performance in some scenes is enough to chill the blood and the break the heart of every viewer.

4.5 stars

PS: It also features a couple of small performances by Parks and Recreation alumni which will be a small delight for fans of that show, just like it was for me!

 


Words by Liam McNally